Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night: A Review of '80 for Brady'
When you think of Tom Brady, you likely think of middle-aged men spending Sundays in front of their TV sets with seven-layer dip and beer. You almost certainly do not think of the legendary actresses Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno, Sally Field, and Lily Tomlin—until now. The foursome star in 80 for Brady, a movie about a group of octogenarians from Boston who head to Houston to see their idol, Tom Brady, play for the New England Patriots in the 2017 Super Bowl. Inevitably, chaos unfolds, and hijinks ensue. Betty (Field) wins restaurateur Guy Fieri’s hot wings-eating contest, Trish (Fonda) meets the fans of her erotic fanfiction about Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski, and Maura (Moreno) bests actor Billy Porter in poker.
While on the surface, 80 for Brady might seem like a lighthearted farce, the movie does not hesitate to bring the characters’ struggles with aging to the forefront. Betty, a retired math professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, struggles to stand up to her overly codependent husband, who keeps calling her for feedback on his latest academic paper. Maura is still figuring out how to adjust to life after her husband’s death. The unlucky-in-love Trish is coping with yet another breakup, longing for her younger days as the beautiful star of local car dealership commercials. Cancer survivor Lou (Tomlin) is dodging calls about test results from her hospital, fearing the news that her cancer has returned. One of the film’s greatest strengths is its ability to weave comic bits, like the ladies accidentally taking cannabis-laced gummies at a party, with the more somber aspects of its characters, such as Lou’s desire to have one last trip with her best friends.
The nuanced characterization of the four leading characters makes 80 for Brady stand out amongst other comedy films—and the general film landscape. Hollywood has the unfortunate tendency to cast aside both women-focused stories and actresses once they cross the threshold from 29 to 30. According to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, only 20% of characters in movies and television are over 50, and only a quarter of those are women, meaning only 5% of movie and television characters are women over the age of 50. Ask the average American to name a movie or TV show starring middle-aged women, and they will probably tell you Golden Girls and nothing else. 80 for Brady proves that women’s capacity for humor, love, and friendship does not diminish with age—if anything, it grows. In the movie, a younger man makes a bet with Lou that he can beat her at a football passing contest, thinking that their age difference puts him at an inherent advantage. However, not only does Lou beat him, but she continues to demolish curious onlookers who also think they can surely beat someone as old as their grandmother.
In a culture preoccupied with anti-aging creams and Botox, 80 for Brady expresses that although aging brings new challenges, it also can be a lot of fun. The movie’s main characters travel, party, flirt, befriend Guy Fieri, and scheme their way into the stadium by posing as Lady Gaga’s background dancers. All their antics are achieved not despite their age but rather because of it. Instead of resigning themselves to becoming stereotypical old ladies, they choose to make the absolute most out of the time they have left. There is no better real-life example of this phenomenon than the cast themselves. Although they have long since passed Hollywood’s “expiration date” for actresses, they continue to take powerhouse roles—most recently, Fonda and Tomlin in Grace & Frankie and Moreno in One Day at a Time—blazing a trail for other actresses and showing everyone that getting older does not have to mean slowing down. Although the movie’s title is 80 for Brady, viewers will not leave thinking about Tom Brady, regardless of his potential intentions as a producer. Instead, they’ll leave the theater wanting even more screen time for this legendary female powerhouse of a cast—and also wanting to call their grandma.
Grace Copps is a freshman in the College studying Government.